South Riding (2011) - Cast and characters

Anna Maxwell Martin and David Morrissey
star in adaptation of Winifred Holtby's novel South Riding
Sunday February 20, 2011 on BBC One
(And on PBS Masterpiece in May 2011)

~ Characters of South Riding ~

Sarah Burton (Anna Maxwell Martin)
Sarah Burton is an ambitious and modern career woman, a headmistress who is determined to show her girls that the future is theirs for the taking. She has returned from London to her place of birth, the South Riding, determined to make a difference and implement change. However, beneath the self-confidence is a flawed and vulnerable heroine, whose ideals will be heavily tested when they come up against the messy reality of life.

Robert Carne (David Morrissey)
Robert Carne is a brooding, troubled gentleman farmer. On the surface, he may appear snobbish, obstructive and backward-looking but he is actually just trying to protect the way of life in the countryside that he so believes in and loves. He is equally protective of his delicate young daughter, Midge, who reminds him constantly of her mother, his beloved wife now lost to him. Carne is a man trapped in the past but the world of the thirties is a rapidly changing place...

Robert & Midge Carne (Katherine McGolpin)
Midge Carne is fourteen and has never been to school. She has been privately educated by a string of governesses who have struggled to control this highly-strung girl. With money tight and Midge clearly in need of company, Robert Carne decides to send his daughter to the local school. It's a serious shock for Midge, being told what to do and forced to socialise with local grocers' daughters! But despite her initial snobbery and fear, Midge forms a deep affection for Miss Burton and increasingly finds school a much needed refuge from her troubled home life.

Alderwoman Beddows (Penelope Wilton)
Mrs Beddows is a strong woman ahead of her times: she is the district's first alderwoman and a formidable and vocal presence on the County Council. Beneath that surface, however, she is as hopelessly romantic as a young girl, privately battling against the disappointments of life.

Lydia Holly (Charlie May-Clark)
Lydia Holly is a teenage girl with huge academic potential but very limiting social circumstances. She lives in a railway carriage in a shanty town known locally as The Shacks with her parents and five siblings. Until now, Lydia's had to stay at home and help her mother raise the children but at last she can take up her scholarship at Kiplington High School. Sarah Burton recognises a gift in Lydia. She knows that education could entirely transform this girl's life but will Lydia ever be able to escape the cycle of poverty that has trapped her family for generations?

Councillor Joe Astell (Douglas Henshall)
Joe Astell is, like Carne, a veteran of the Great War. Unlike Carne it has left him with a deep distaste for its memory and a determination that matches Sarah's to make the world a better place in its aftermath. Born in Glasgow he forged his politics in the shipyards of the Clyde and came to Yorkshire during the Depression to work with the trawlermen of the South Riding. Sarah Burton is exactly the kind of woman he has hoped to meet - passionate, political, free thinking - and Joe can't help but wonder if she might be part of his future.

Councillor Snaith (Peter Firth)
Anthony Snaith is the ultimate politician. Motivated by the desire to do good and to set his mark on Yorkshire, he moves his pieces like an expert tactician, sweeping poverty and ruin off the face of the Riding and bringing order where once chaos reigned. So what if he makes a bit of money into the bargain that enables him to live the life he dreamed off as a boy growing up in the Kingsport slums? Where's the harm? It's not as if it's corrupt, is it now? Snaith will always be sure to keep his hands clean...

Alfred Huggins (John Henshaw)
Alfred Huggins is a man tormented both by earthly desires and by the desire to do good. He is a man of the cloth, whose heart genuinely bleeds for the poor of the South Riding, whose eye will always be caught by a pretty girl, and whose soul will be in torment after. In agonies of lust for young Bessy Warbuckle he exposes himself to blackmail and in a bid to get hold of enough money to pay her off, becomes embroiled in a piece of political corruption that may lead to his ruin...

Mr. Holly (Shaun Dooley)
Mr Holly is a labourer with a love for simple pleasures; a warm curd tart or a warm cuddle from his wife will send him to bed with a smile. Even if he has to share that bed with his wife and most of his six children! He lives in a railway carriage in the local shanty town, The Shacks, but he's happy and reckons they've got the best sea views in the whole of South Riding. Mr Holly's own education was curtailed as a boy because he had to work to support his family. Now he dreams his daughter Lydia will fulfil her potential in a way he never could, but when tragedy strikes, everything they both hoped for is threatened.

Read more on SOUTH RIDING

Character profiles: BBC One
Photos: BBC/Todd Antony


  1. I can't wait until this is available on NetFlix. :)

  2. Passiflora, thanks!

    Scotty & Emily, you're lucky you have Netflix. Not an option for me! Eager to see how this one unfolds.

  3. This looks GREAT! I can hardly wait for it to show up....somewhere! Perhaps Masterpiece Classic next winter?

  4. stephanie, it's mentioned above...PBS in May!



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